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Attorney accused of setting fire at law firm pleads no contest to arson, bomb threat charges

April 30, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD | matthew.umstead@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — An attorney accused of setting a fire at the law firm where she once worked and threatening to bomb a nearby insurance business was placed on probation for five years after she pleaded no contest Monday to two felony charges in Berkeley County Circuit Court.

Ashley R. Shreve, 30, of Oakland, Md., pleaded no contest to second-degree arson and conveying a false bomb threat. She was ordered by Judge Christopher C. Wilkes to pay $500 in restitution to McNeer, Highland, McMunn & Varner LC and $2,548 to Westfield Insurance.

A five-year prison sentence for the arson conviction and a one- to three-year sentence for the bomb threat conviction were suspended. Wilkes told Shreve that the convictions could have an “adverse affect” on her license to practice law.

Conditions of Shreve’s probation include obtaining a psychological evaluation at her own expense to address the reasons for her actions. She also will have to participate in mental-health counseling.

Representatives of the law firm who were in court for Shreve’s sentencing hearing opted not to give a statement. Shreve also did not make a statement in court Monday.

Given that Shreve was found to have no prior criminal history and tested negative for drugs since her arrest, Wilkes said he would accept the plea agreement reached in the case, saying it “seems like an appropriate disposition.”

After the hearing, Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney Pamela Games-Neely said there were some evidentiary “problems” with the case and the victims were satisfied with the plea agreement.

Police have said a bomb threat letter sent to the insurance company ultimately led police to Shreve.

In the bomb threat mailed to Westfield, the note quoted in court records said: “Bombs are around in the ceilings and on the ground!!! You didn’t get the message when I set your neighbor on fire. So now I must threaten you.”

A DNA sample obtained from the envelope used to send the bomb threat to Westfield matched a sample of Shreve’s DNA, police have said.

In exchange for Shreve’s plea, single counts of attempted arson and conveying a false bomb threat were dismissed.

The fire that was set in September 2007 at the law office at 275 Aikens Center in Martinsburg caused $5,000 to $10,000 in damages, police said.

Shreve, who was arrested in May in the Richmond, Va., area, was a resident of Spring Mills in Berkeley County when she worked at the law firm, police said.

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